A gap year can be an incredible experience for any young person who wants to get experience outside traditional school. But without a roadmap, it can be easy to let an entire year slip past without gaining any real value from the time you take away from school.
“Take advantage of the under-appreciated resource that young people have in abundance: your time. Dedicate it to pursuing something — vocational goals, training, personal projects, travel dreams, anything that will cause you to expand and evolve in a productive manner. Find something that will challenge you to create a tangible product or develop an ability that you would not have otherwise. Technical and experiential knowledge is important, both for personal development and employability. And usually, it’s gained outside the classroom.” -Lydia Hodgson, after spending 6 months backpacking through Europe
Traditional schooling is highly structured by third parties. If you’re taking a gap year after spending all your life in a classroom, it can be hard when you’re hit with the reality of structuring your own time. (It’s good for you though!)
Don’t know how to plan a gap year?
Don’t worry. These tips should help make your year successful:
Take time to brainstorm.
- Go somewhere quiet for at least 10 minutes. No technology, no paper, no pen. Focus on thinking specifically about your gap year. It’s amazing how many thoughts come together in your head when you fully devote your brainpower to solving a specific problem!
- Take a sheet of paper and write all your gap year ideas on it. (Yes, they can be outrageous. This part is a brain dump.) Writing all your ideas helps you to concretize your top priorities.
- Highlight the top things you’d like to do. Once you have your priorities narrowed down, you can start setting goals to accomplish those priorities!
Set your goals.
You’ve got your ideas narrowed down. Now, what goals do you have for your gap year? What would you like to accomplish?
Goals can be specific, like “I’m going to publish a book.”
Or they can be growth-oriented, like “I’m going to improve my writing.”
But the best goals have both a specific and a growth-oriented aspect, like “I want to improve my writing. I will know I have reached this goal when I have self-published a book by the end of this year.”
Adopt a “one each day” mindset.
Now that you’ve got your goals in focus, make sure you have a way of sticking to them.
The best progress comes not because of sprinting toward a goal for a week and then letting it die off. At Praxis, we call this the principle of non-zero days. You’ll accomplish your goals much faster if you focus on doing one thing every day to complete them!
Write down ideas of little things you can do every single day to keep moving toward your goals. (The challenge will be making a practice of non-zero days throughout your gap year!)
Create a PDP for each month.
A PDP, or Personal Development Project, is a way to create a concrete action plan around a goal you have.
Creating one PDP for each month of your gap year means you’ll have a dozen projects that complete your goals!
Set up a plan for documenting your year.
This is one of the most important parts of your gap year strategy. Show your work!
How are you going to document your year? Here are a couple ideas:
- Build a website and document your gap year there. The advantage is, you own this space and can organize it however you want. Any videos, articles, or other creations can all be hosted here!
- Document on Instagram. Take good pictures of what you’re doing and write a short description for each. This is a great way to make sure you’re doing something every day. Plus, you get photography AND writing skills just by making this a practice! (Besides, how cool would it be to look back on your year documented on Instagram!)
- Write a book about your year. Over your year, write down the hardest parts about taking a gap year and how you overcome them. Take note of the coolest things that happen, how you stuck to your goals, how you overcame failure, and how you succeeded. Chances are, you’ll have a great roadmap to share with others who also want to take a gap year!
Still apprehensive about how to plan a gap year? Check out this article with all the questions people ask about gap years:
Ideas for What to do During your Gap Year
There are many options for gap years! Some of them are simple, others are more challenging to complete. The best part? You can incorporate your PDPs, your goals, and your documentation into whatever you choose to pursue for your gap year!
This is what many people think of when they imagine a gap year. You can learn so many valuable things through traveling! This would be a wonderful opportunity for language learning, budgeting, and independence. (And it would be perfect to document!)
This one is important if you’re thinking specifically about a career in a certain field. Many people won’t turn down a volunteer who is eager to learn and help out.
Want to be a lawyer? Volunteer for a friend who’s in the business. Think teaching would be cool? Help out at your local elementary school every week. Nonprofit organizations and community libraries are some more examples of places you can volunteer your time.
Get a full-time job.
Any job. You’ll make money, you’ll learn to manage a professional life, and you’ll develop life skills that can only be gained by working.
Besides, you still have early mornings and evenings to focus on your gap year goals! Here’s what you’ll learn from working for a year.
Take some free courses.
Free courses are everywhere. You can learn almost anything for free on sites like noexcuselist.com.
Better yet, build your own course by researching and reading, watching Youtube tutorials, and creating projects. Don’t forget to document what you’re learning!
Come spend your gap year at Praxis! We’ll help you build professional skills, set concrete goals, complete some cool projects, and document it all. Best of all, we’ll get you a full-time paid apprenticeship at a startup. You’ll learn by doing, and you’ll gain skills on the job that can’t be gotten anywhere else.
For more information on completing Praxis as a gap year, check out this article: